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El Salvador's top court has said that populist President Nayib Bukele would be allowed to run for a second term, despite the country's constitution prohibiting the head of state from serving two consecutive terms in office.
The Supreme Court decision on Friday will allow Bukele to run for a second term in 2024 -- potentially making him the Central American nation's first president to serve more than five years in office since the 1950s.
In its ruling, the court said a sitting head of state could seek re-election for a second term as long as they have not "been president during the immediately preceding period".
The decision was handed down by judges appointed to El Salvador's highest court by Bukele in May after the country's parliament removed several justices critical of the government -- a move decried by critics as a "coup d'etat" and one which sparked international condemnation.
The new judges then reversed a previous decision by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court that ruled the president could not serve more than one consecutive mandate. However, that ruling did allow the head of state to run again in a subsequent election.
Jean Manes, US charge d'affaires at the US embassy in San Salvador, told a press conference Saturday that the "United States condemns the decision" taken by the court.
Elected in 2019, Bukele enjoys broad support in El Salvador over his promises to fight organized crime and improve security in the violence-wracked country.
His allies also hold a large majority in the country's Congress -- a situation not seen since a peace deal in 1992 put an end to 12 years of bloody civil war.
But Bukele has long been accused of authoritarian tendencies.
Last year, Bukele dispatched troops to the country's parliament in a bid to pressure lawmakers.